Commonwealth v. Atencio
345 Mass. 627, 189 N.E.2d 323 (1963)

  • Atencio, Britch and two other guys were playing Russian Roulette. Several of them took a turn, then Britch pointed the gun to his head and killed himself.
  • Atencio and the other guys were arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.
  • The Trial Court convicted the three of involuntary manslaughter. They appealed.
    • The three argued that each person’s turn was independent, and Britch’s intervening actions meant that they was no direct causal connection between their participation in the game and Britch’s death.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the convictions.
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the defendants were involved in a joint enterprise with Britch and so they were acting recklessly by helping Britch participate in a game that caused his death.
    • The Court distinguished similar cases that resulted in deaths from drag racing by saying that in drag racing, the skill of the racers is a factor, while in Russian Roulette, there is no skill involved.
  • See Model Penal Code §2.03.